Category Archives: Bigotry

Saturday Odds & Sods: All Shook Up

March by Grant Wood.

The monuments aftershocks continue here in New Orleans. I went to a friend’s kid’s birthday party and was warned to skip the subject because there were some rabid Lost Causers invited. They went there, I did not. I asked for a gold star but did not get one. I considered pitching a fit but thought better of it.

While we’re on the subject of the late monuments, I have two articles to recommend, nay, commend. First, Adrastos acquaintances Campbell Robertson and Katy Reckdahl collaborated on a story connecting the monuments and family histories. Second, the local public radio station, WWNO, has a piece about a proposed monument to Oscar Dunn a former slave who was Gret Stet Lt. Governor during Reconstruction. The monument was never built. Dunn, however, is worthy of one. That’s where I’d like this process to go: Civil Rights figures. It’s what makes sense if we were striking a blow against white supremacy and the Confederacy.

I saw this week’s bucolic featured image on the Antiques Roadshow. I used it because I like the austere lines of the print by the austere Iowan, Grant Wood. Austere seems to be the word of the day. Besides, Dr. A won tickets to the Roadshow when it comes to New Orleans this July. I want them to know we’re coming.

I was horrified to learn from the Guardian that Elvis Presley’s spell is waning with the kids today. If they think of him at all, they think of bloated Elvis from the end of his life or the notorious body in the box picture.

As his peer Fats Domino would surely say, Ain’t That A Shame. Elvis brought rock-and-roll to the masses and was its first King, Besides, what will NOLA’s own Rolling Elvi do if the Elvis mystique is diminished?

Rolling Elvi, Muses Parade, 2011. Photo by Dr. A.

This week’s theme song, All Shook Up, was written by Otis Blackwell and recorded by Elvis in 1957. According to his biographer Peter Guralnick, the reason Elvis received a writing credit is that he came up with the title.

First up is Blackwell’s rendition followed by Elvis’ studio version and then the Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart belting it out.

I don’t know about you but I’m, uh, all shook up, which is why we’ll take a break at this point.

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Malaka Of The Week: Lost Causer Karl Oliver

As I said in the last Saturday post, I’m burnt out on Lost Cause Fest. I’m ready to move on but as Michael Corleone said in Godfather III: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” In Michael’s case it was La Cosa Nostra, in my case it’s the Lost Causers. And that is why Mississippi State Representative Karl Oliver is malaka of the week.

Malaka Oliver fits into the category of “honorees” I’ve never heard of before and hope to never hear from again. His sole current claim to fame is a Facebook post that surfaced via Mississippi Today:

I’m glad that so many posted screen shots of this unhinged rant because it may disappear much like the Lost Cause itself; other Mississippi GOPers have condemned the remarks because he used the L word: LYNCHED. It’s a word that should never be used but seems to be making a comeback in the age of pro-Trump alt-right shitbirds.

Lost Causers like Malaka Oliver aren’t big on facts. It was not the “leadership of Louisiana” that removed (not destroyed) the white supremacy monuments, it was the City of New Orleans. I remember when conservatives favored local self-government but that seems be a cause as lost as the Civil War and Jim Crow. As Mayor Mitch Landrieu put it while the Lee statue was coming down: 

“The Civil War is over; the Confederacy lost and we are better for it.”

That would appear to be evident but apparently denial is a river that runs through Karl Oliver’s district. It’s a Lost Cause because y’all lost the war. Unfortunately, they won the peace both on the ground and in the history books. That’s life in what Gore Vidal (who had deep Southern roots) called “The United States of Amnesia.”

This is an issue of local self-government. If other municipalities choose not to remove their monuments, ain’t nobody’s business but their own. I don’t believe in telling other people what to think or believe. It’s up to them. Malaka Oliver would be wise to mind his beeswax and butt out. And that is why Lost Causer Karl Oliver is malaka of the week.

INSTANT UPDATE: Malaka Oliver apologized under pressure for using the L word.  I guess this peckerwood shit stain won’t show up with a rope in New Orleans any time soon then.

I have some Lost Cause Fest lagniappe. First, a letter to the editor published by the Advocate, which is, in a word, unhinged. It’s amusing to see my yuppie, gentrifying Mayor referred to as having “a program of Social Marxism.”

Second, a NYT opinion article by Brent Staples about the motives of Richard Spencer and the tiki torch protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. It has a pretty darn catchy title, How the Swastika Became a Confederate Flag.

Finally, my own Krewe of Spank posted this reminder of  2016’s Arthur Hard-On Mardi Gras Guide on the book of faces. The post wouldn’t embed, but here’s the picture:

Spanks for the memories.

 

If “Blazing Saddles” were a Bizarro-land, post-apocalyptic horror film…

ClarkeTrump
(IMDB’s description of “Blazing Saddles” begins with “A corrupt politician hires a black sheriff…” which is all that film and this situation have in common.)

News broke Wednesday that Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke was taking a position in the Homeland Security Department, leaving me to recall a line George Carlin once uttered about Ross Perot’s challenge for the presidency in 1992:
“Just what a nation of idiots needs: A short, loud idiot.”

Coming up with a descriptor for Clarke is like trying to catch a fart and paint it green. It’s also as pleasurable. Many news organizations relied on the tried-and-true adjectives like “controversial” and “polarizing,” while NY Mag reached for “actual fascist.” A vulgar part of me would have gone with “fucktard” while a more journalistic aspect of me would actually settle on “Trumpian.”

And maybe that’s the best indication that this story is true, in spite of a non-denial denial by the office itself that Clarke hasn’t been given a position at Homeland Security.

This guy is 100 percent Trump with a better haircut a worse choice of clothing.

For people lucky enough to not know who he is, David Clarke has “served” (quotes intentional) Milwaukee County for the past 15 years as its sheriff. He was appointed by Gov. Scott McCallum in 2002 to finish a retiring sheriff’s term and then kept on rolling. Clarke has done and said a ridiculous number of incredibly stupid things. Trying to pick and choose some of them is like trying to put together a Rolling Stones Greatest Hits Album: No matter what you pick, there’s another incredible contender that gets left off. Consider a few of these beauties:

 

It’s not just the bombast, the rapid-fire threats and the general lack of decorum that makes the “Trumpian” moniker fit this man. It’s the way in which he has manipulated reality to improve his personal lot in life. While alleged Billionaire Trump paints himself as a champion of the blue-collar working folk, Clarke masquerades as a Democrat. He registers as a member of the Blue Team primarily because Milwaukee is a deep blue sea among the outlying red rural areas of the state.

Clarke has also followed Trump’s lead on issues of safety and security, painting pictures of illegals running roughshod over the citizens of the country. Meanwhile, neither can see the crises he causes in his own proximate area (Trump’s chaotic White House, Clarke’s dungeon-esque jail).

Like Trump, Clarke is nothing like what he portends to be. Everything about him is a blustering con, including his bedazzled, flair-filled uniform, which Army vet Charles Clymer took to task in a series of hysterical tweets.

Perhaps the hardest thing to discuss regarding Clarke, given that this is the third rail of society, is the issue of race. Clarke himself has played both sides of the race card, in one case swapping racial slurs with Mark Lamont Hill of CNN, going as far as to call him a “jigaboo” on Twitter. The Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP has frequently criticized Clarke, with the group’s president noting, “If there was a white sheriff making those statements, they would have demanded his resignation by now.”

This is true: Clarke is essentially part Bull Connor, part bullshit. He’d be the first one to tell a black kid to pull up his pants and that protestors are a bunch of snowflakes and the conservative white folk just eat that shit up.

Or to pull a line from the great movie, “Lean on Me” : “I know why you like Clark. He’s a guard dog. Does your dirty work. Keeps the black folk in line.”

I have never managed to understand how Clarke kept getting reelected as sheriff in my hometown area. After the first term, it was pretty clear he wasn’t a Democrat. After the second term, it was clear he was a bully. Now, it’s clear the man is fucking crazy, so he naturally had to find someone similarly screwed up to hire him.

And as much as I want him out of here, I can’t imagine we’ll be in any better shape with him sharing asshole tips with The Donald.

Guest Post: Lost Cause Fest, Virginia Style

There was a rather Klannish Lost Cause Fest rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend. I have an old friend who is a native Virginian and longtime Charlottesville resident. I reached out to him, asking for a local’s perspective. He has blogged in the past as Parenthetical, so we revived that pen name for this post. We begin with a photo of  Lost Cause Fest, Virginia Style:

Take it away, Parenthetical:

It was a good weekend for home and garden sections around town. Richard Spencer, the UVA alumnus who has been banned from 25 European countries for his supremacist efforts, found an excuse to come back to Charlottesville last Saturday. Some folks carry a torch for their college sweetheart, but Spencer returned to carry a tiki torch for a Robert E. Lee statue that has been endangered by a recent bout of citizen input. Spencer’s appearance made national news because the unofficial leader of the Alt White got several dozen other folks to carry torches, too. (The revolution begins on Aisle 8, just follow the scent of victim complexes and lemongrass. Be careful with that lamp oil, Eugene.)

As an Albemarle County resident who lives about 10 minutes away from the statue, this protest was unwelcome, but even in a town like C’ville, it wasn’t that surprising. In the election-year yard sign wars, Trump/Pence dominated once you got even ten minutes out of town. Plus there’s the occasional Confederate flag you’ll still see in yards not much further out.

Another reason: I grew up an hour down the road in 1970s Richmond, where the memories and grudges of the Late Unpleasantness were so pervasive and entrenched that a kid wouldn’t even recognize them as such. Let’s hit the highlights.

My first Little League game was at Jefferson-Davis Elementary. My mother bought me some old Civil War board game at a yard sale, and I was always the South as a matter of course (my choice, she didn’t care). I went to private school for one year early on, and they used even/odd birthdays to divide us into two standing groups for purposes of recess/exercises/lunch/etc. You were either a Jackson or a Lee. This was over a century after Appomattox. Jacksons and Lees.

That doesn’t even get us down to Monument Avenue, with its stretch of formidable tributes to the Confederate giants. There’s Jackson, Lee, Davis … and thanks to his eponymous Circle, you even know exactly where J.E.B. Stuart is at all times (which goes to show how nostalgia always winds up improving on truth at least a little).

There’s a Southern accent where I come from, and I can’t imagine feeling truly at home anywhere else. Yet it was pretty easy to spend one’s entire youth blind to the discomfort and second-tier status that black families have faced daily from these persistent reminders, down to having to be a “Rebel” if you attend a certain high school (no, that hasn’t changed). You could probably still go your whole life in Richmond and never hear the word “treason” associated with the men so elegantly preserved for posterity on the avenue.

It was only well into adulthood before I recognized words like “treason” and “traitor” as relevant on par with the more familiar compliments. Yet all of those men knew exactly what they were doing back then. They surely knew that if they survived but weren’t victorious, they would likely face life in prison or death for their choice. Credit where it’s due, there’s bravery in that.

In the event that they lost, they sure didn’t expect to see their names plastered on dozens of schools and military bases for generations after the war. I bet those bleeding-heart Yankees regret going overboard with that aspect of postbellum make-nice — allowing names of the leaders of the insurrection to get set in concrete atop government installations(!), to be followed by their profiles cast in metal and literally placed on pedestals.

There they would remain throughout the South, waiting for the inevitable stares and questions from the next young wave of the Confederacy’s descendants, and then the next. They provided steadfast validation of the lost cause’s legitimacy, feeding an addiction to grievance when it should have been starved.

Which brings us back to Charlottesville 2017 and Klan Lite rallies, with milquetoast “What, these torches? But it’s dark out here!” attempts at intimidation by racists both too dumb and/or too timid to wear sheets. These folks like to lean on some government obligation toward “tradition” and “heritage” in these debates, but they don’t realize (or don’t let on that they realize) it was only the Civil Rights Act that brought the Confederate flag back out of the pickup truck windows and bedroom closets and museums and into vogue again around certain statehouses. Again, grievance about the loss of privilege, posing as pride.

Reasonable people can disagree about the statues. Even the mayor of this comparatively liberal island in central Virginia, a man who condemned this little tantrum flambe immediately, has supported keeping the Lee statue in place. It’s complicated. Still, when the mayor said, “This event involving torches at night in Lee Park was either profoundly ignorant or was designed to instill fear in our minority populations in a way that hearkens back to the days of the KKK,” all I wanted to say was, “Yeah, I think that’s what they call a false choice, bub.”

What government of the people and for the people can prioritize the discriminatory worldview of a long-gone era over the right of each living, breathing citizen to feel equally welcome in public spaces? Over a person’s confidence in the full true weight of their equality under the law? The next decision in the ongoing legal wrangling over the Lee statue is due in June.

At the end of the day, a culture should not ignore its history, but there’s a lot of room between remembering and celebrating. Buoyed by the knowledge of that history and the wisdom (hopefully) imparted by time, a community has the right to choose its heroes. Just ask all the folks who renamed their entire counties after Confederates. Today, we can surrender that power to now-dead, all-white committees who made decisions in meeting rooms down the hall from the colored water fountain — people who, let’s face it, weren’t commissioning those statues so we could “learn from the darker parts of our history,” — or we can choose better.

Lost Cause Fest Update: Two Down, Two To Go

My friend James Karst is obsessed with Jefferson Davis’ arrest by Union soldiers whilst in women’s clothing. I’ve written about this before in a Saturday post and even used the above picture. Davis in drag hardly paints the heroic picture that Lost Causers wish to portray. Wishful thinking is their forte. In fact, Davis was an incompetent leader closer in temperament and ability to Donald Trump than to fellow Lost Cause icon Robert E. Lee.

The Davis monument came down in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Even before a story was posted Wednesday night by the Advocate, it was the worst kept secret in town. That’s why I was vexed with people who were peeved about the article. There was no major violence last night and has been none since the process began thanks to some stellar work by NOPD. The citizens of New Orleans have a right to know what our government is up to. I still believe the monuments should be removed in the light of day. The Lost Causers are all hat and no cattle.

I’ve been pondering the significance of the Jeff Davis statue. It’s a monument that honors the leader of a defeated power. It’s as if Bismarck had a statue of Louis Napoleon erected in Berlin after the Franco-Prussian war. I don’t recall a flood of Kaiser Bill monuments in allied capitals after the Great War. It doesn’t even happen in other civil wars: Benito Juarez didn’t pay homage to Maximilian after winning that struggle. Juarez didn’t build a wall either. In short, the Davis monument is just plain weird unless it’s about white supremacy. It is.

Since I’m allergic to Lost Cause Festers and need my sleep, I was not there to bear witness to Davis’ downfall. One could even call it the second time Davis died in New Orleans. The local media were there, tweeting the night away. Here’s are some tweets from Danny Monteverde of WWL-TV along with some commentary:

This is my favorite detail of the process. I wonder if anyone was tempted to pop bubbles to annoy the Lost Causers.

Do they expect Zombie Jeff Davis along with Zombie Judah P. Benjamin to emerge and save the day? Btw, Confederate Secretary of State Benjamin is a local without a major monument. It may have had something to do with his faith. He was Jewish. White supremacists are typically anti-Semitic and don’t consider Jews to be fellow honkies.

I’d like to close this segment with a tweet that says everything you need to know about the Lost Causers:

This is proof positive that the Lost Causers who sat hillbilly shiva at this monument were “outside agitators,” not locals. Not even dread pro-monuments Lt. Gov Billy Nungesser would say such a thing. Stay classy, Lost Causers.

I hope Mayor Landrieu keeps his word that the remaining two monuments will come down “sooner rather than later.” We need to move past this and get back to what passes for normal in New Orleans. This process has dragged on so long that I’ve been tempted to put a dress on the Davis statue as a way of saying frock you to the Lost Causers.

Repeat after me: Tear them down now, Mr. Mayor. Stop the madness.

The Fog Of History: Lost Cause Fest Update

Pro tip: the first T is silent.

There hasn’t been any progress on removing the white supremacy monuments since I last wrote about it on May 2. The Lost Causers continue to hang out at the remaining monuments, which are now surrounded with police barricades to help keep the peace.

There was a pro-removal march from Congo Square to Lee Circle on Sunday. I didn’t attend because I don’t agree with all of the aims of march organizers, Take ‘Em Down NOLA. I take a more nuanced position on future monument and street name issues. I am, however, delighted to report that there were no incidents of major violence on Sunday; just a bit of pushing , shoving, and punching. There were reports that heavily armed wingnuts might be descending on New Orleans, but if they showed, they kept their powder dry as it were. NOPD announced sterner measures and enforced them. The protest and counter-protest went off without a hitch. Let’s score one for Mayor Landrieu and Chief Harrison.

There was a brief flurry of activity surrounding the PGT Beauregard  statue at City Park. A pro-monuments group tried to obtain a temporary restraining order claiming that the statue is owned by the park, not the city. The TRO was denied but a hearing is scheduled some time this week Given the fact that the City Council voted to declare the four monuments “public nuisances,” this latest gambit is apt to fail. I won’t even dignify the law moving through the state lege with a comment. In and of itself, it’s a public nuisance. Retroactive laws are disfavored both in Louisiana Civil Law and American public law, so it should have no effect on the current controversy.

The Beauregard statue has always been the toughest case of the four scheduled to be removed. Gen. Beauregard supported racial equality and healing in post-bellum Louisiana. Whether or not he wore bellum bottoms is beside the point…

There’s an interesting piece at New Orleans Magazine’s web site by its editor, Errol Laborde. He wants to leave the Beauregard monument be. I don’t agree with him but he makes an intelligent, historically based argument. Unfortunately, nuance and this issue do not go together, which is a pity. History tends to be foggy, not black and white.

Very few people on the “let ’em stay” side have attempted to make a sophisticated argument like the one advanced by Laborde. More typical are the neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi hillbilly types who rant about heritage and against political correctness.  Then there’s this remarkable comment that popped up on WWL-TV News:

“We love our history,” said Melissa Wainwright. “We love the African-Americans. We love jazz. If it weren’t for slavery, as bad as it was, would we have jazz in New Orleans?”

Local Italo-Americans were also involved in birthing jazz and many of the early jazzers such as Jelly Roll Morton were descendants of free people of color. So, yeah, we would have had jazz without human bondage.

I glanced at Ms. Wainwright’s FB page and it’s full of right-wing conspiracy buffery and praise for the dread Milo Yiannopoulos. My least favorite ethnic Greek is her favorite gay. So it goes.

I’ve mentioned Michael Tisserand before as George Herriman’s biographer. He’s also the former editor of Gambit Weekly as well as an arm-chair philosopher or is that parader? He wrote an excellent op-ed piece for the NYT wherein he made an oft neglected point:

In the late 1980s, when I was visiting New Orleans, the city I now call home, I stopped in a neighborhood drugstore and met a charming and talkative pharmacist. As he rang up my purchase, he placed a thin newspaper in my bag. “You might like to read this,” he said.

Later, I opened the bag and saw the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, filled with stories lauding the organization’s founder, David Duke.

I recall the initial shock but also a sense of recognition. It was just one of countless “just between us” exchanges that I had already been offered in my lifetime. A white-on-white “just between us” moment might take the form of a pointed comment or just a knowing glance. Once it came to me in the middle of a handshake.

They are not limited to the South, but I have come to know them well in the 30 years that I’ve now lived in New Orleans.

I’ve had many of those moments myself. It’s as awkward as hell. It’s gotten to the point where I no longer bite my tongue unless it’s going to waste too much time. People like that druggist aren’t going to be convinced by the likes of me or Michael Tisserand. It’s like trying to talk sense to a Trumper. Of course, they’re all Trumpers now.

Finally, I mentioned having a more nuanced position on future monuments controversies. I first stated it in a 2015 post, The Fog Of History: The Jacksonian Straw Man. I think that each park, school, statue, street name, or whatever needs to be asessed individually. We need to look at why they were named for a specific person and what that person’s local ties were. Intent is everything. All four of the monuments in dispute right now were erected to either honor the Confederacy or to advance the cause of white supremacy. That is why I favor their removal.

The Andrew Jackson statue at Jackson Square is a harder case. It was erected to honor his role in the Battle of New Orleans, not his slave ownership, rabid racism or overrated presidency. It’s definitely not a pro-Confederate monument. Union Gen. Benjamin Butler added a plaque during the Civil War that proclaims: “The Union must and shall be preserved.” I think the statue should stay but if folks want to add more information explaining Jackson’s role in our history, that’s fine with me. Intent and context are everything.

I realize that this is an issue where nuance went to die, but the simplistic solutions offered by people on both extremes will lead to endless controversy when there are other vital local issues that need to be addressed. I neither want to honor white supremacy nor witness a rewriting of history like that in the Soviet Union where St. Petersburg became Petrograd and then Leningrad before reverting to St. Petersburg. I give that a very low grad indeed…

The most important thing right now is that the three monuments be removed as soon as possible. The City Council has spoken. It’s time for Davis, Lee, and Beauregard to come down. It’s past time for the right-wing “outside agitators” to go home and bother people in their own communities.

Tear them down now, Mr. Mayor. Stop the madness.

Bomb the Suburbs

Fucking FINALLY, someone pays attention: 

Trump’s real base, the actual backbone of fascism, isn’t poor and working-class voters, but middle-class and affluent whites. Often self-employed, possessed of a retirement account and a home as a nest egg, this is the stratum taken in by Horatio Alger stories. They can envision playing the market well enough to become the next Trump. They haven’t won “big-league,” but they’ve won enough to be invested in the hierarchy they aspire to climb. If only America were made great again, they could become the haute 
bourgeoisie—the storied “1 percent.”

Trump’s most institutionally entrenched middle-class base includes police and Border Patrol unions, whom he promptly unleashed after his inauguration by allowing them free rein in enforcing his vague but terrifying immigration orders, and by appointing an attorney general who would call off investigations into troubled police departments. As wanton as their human-rights atrocities in the years leading up to the Trump era have been, law-enforcement agents are already making their earlier conduct look like a model of restraint. They are Trump’s most passionate supporters and make concrete his contempt for anyone not white, male, and rich.

I’ve been yelling about this for at least five years.

Source.

During the 2011 Wisconsin gubernatorial recall, the reddest parts of the state, which went the hardest for Walker, weren’t purely rural. They were the white-flight suburbs of Milwaukee. People there moved out of the city and nurtured in themselves and their children a story about how black and brown people “ruined” “their” neighborhoods. The city was a shithole out of which they’d been driven, and they were going to get their revenge.

National treasure Heather Havrilesky got at this right after the election when the national press was still jerking itself off about Hillbilly Elegy, about suburban discomfort and the need to conform:

In the suburbs the constant fear is “safety.” I recently sat at a suburban lunch table and listened to three women my own age talk for an hour about how to keep their purses safe during pre-school dropoff. Somebody knew somebody who’d heard something on the radio about men doing smash-and-grab with purses out of minivans and this was a federal case now. The preschool should have security cameras. Here’s my brand of car alarm.

(Just don’t leave your purse in your car, then. Don’t be an idiot. Why are we still talking about this?)

A group of moms at a playground recently devolved into talking about the lack of indoor playspaces nearby. I mentioned one, in a predominantly Hispanic suburb, which was bright and open and always had plenty of room for more kids. “That neighborhood is so sketchy,” one of the women told me. Had she been there? Of course not, her husband would never allow it! Everybody nodded; the world was dangerous and you had to protect yourself! It’s just awful about things these days. People are so goddamned scared.

Local TV news feeds this phenomenon, and the local suburban press as well. The city is always a cesspool of black and brown criminals, homeless, needy, looking to carjack you the minute you go downtown for a play. People always want to take what’s yours. If you’re from the city, you left because you HAD TO move away to protect yourself (and your children, the ready-made excuse for your racist crap) and that sense of being driven out by outside forces (black outside forces; unscrupulous real estate agents, not so much) informs everything around you now. You moved to be safe, but you don’t feel safe because now you’ve let fear control you and once is all it takes.

If you know anything about inherited trauma, you know what you tell your children about why you live where you live. People my age didn’t flee African-Americans marching for open housing but they damn well know why their parents and grandparents did, and among themselves, after a couple of beers, they’ll tell you they know how to keep everything under control.

From the Nation article:

Their material security bound up in the value of their real-estate assets, suburban white people had powerful incentives to keep their neighborhoods white. Just by their very proximity, black people would make their neighborhoods less desirable to future white home-buyers, thereby depreciating the value of the location. Location being the first rule of real estate, suburban homeowners nurtured racist attitudes, while deluding themselves that they weren’t excluding black people for reasons beyond their pocketbooks.

So the people who support Trump the hardest? The people who backed him with their donations and lawn signs and votes? They’re not trailer trash. They’re worse, and it’s because they think they’re better.

They think they’re better than trailer trash because they don’t use the n-word (as they stake a BLUE LIVES MATTER or a WE BACK THE BADGE sign into their lawns and ask why “minorities” have to make everything about race). They’d never tell a Hispanic woman to go back to “her” country if they saw her in the grocery store, but the next time they’re two glasses into the rosé at book club they’ll wonder if she was talking about them when she was speaking Spanish, and declare that immigrants don’t have to learn English anymore.

They’re not going to yell at a woman on the street to make them a sandwich. They will, however, tell a woman with a job that it’s too bad she can’t stay home with her kids, and say they’d never let “a stranger” take care of their children. They’ll put a bumper sticker on their cars: It’s a child, not a choice, or Defund Planned Parenthood, but they’re not bigots or sexists themselves.

They think their fear is more valid than the racism of some Confederate Flag-waving jackhole with a white truck and brown teeth. They think it’s more virtuous to be scared than to be evil. And if they ever do start to wonder if they might be monsters, if they might be on the wrong side of something, well, they have the trailer trash to look at and say, we’re not that. We have one ass instead of two, and nobody in our family’s in jail for making meth.

Dad worked in an office, not a coal mine. We’re better than them. We just vote for the same people, over and over, no matter what, and if we tell ourselves we have a different reason, maybe it buys us out of hell.

A.

Le Sigh

I know that Pepe Le Pew is in bad odor in many quarters, but he still cracks me up. He’s a cartoon skunk who sounds like Charles Boyer, y’all. He’s not real. One of Monsieur Le Pew’s catchphrases was, Le Sigh. And that’s what I did when I checked on the French presidential election yesterday. In this case, it was le sigh of relief that Emmanuel Macron defeated the malodorous Marine Le Pen. How do you like that? I’ve gone from Le Pew to Le Pen. They’re both stinkers, but only one is dangerous and it ain’t the toon.

Watching CNN cover the results gave me a mild headache. Instead of talking heads who knew something about either French politics or foreign policy in general they had political consultants and even a former aide to that legendary Francophile Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Yeah, I was being sarcastic there. CNN’s coverage inspired this tweet:

I make no bones about being an expert. I know something about French political history but my French is at the Pepe Le Pew level: rudimentary at best, stinky at worst. I do, however, know that every country has its own distinctive politics and the equation used by many before the election was nuts: Brexit + Trump = Le Pen for le populist wave win. Merde.

That formulation conveniently skipped the poor performance by Gert Wilders’ far right party in the late Dutch election. Populist nationalism is not a contagious disease. Each country has its own strain; in France, the Le Pens are associated in the public mind with xenophobes, collaborators, Holocaust deniers, and Vichy Fascists. Besides, Le Pen blew it in the final teevee debate. Bigly:

In the end Ms. Le Pen failed to “undemonize,” spectacularly. She failed during the course of the campaign, when her angry rallies drew the Front inexorably back into the swamp from which it had emerged. And then she failed decisively in one of the campaign’s critical moments, last week’s debate with Mr. Macron, when she effectively “redemonized” herself and the party, as many French commentators noted.

It was an hourslong tirade against Mr. Macron, laced with name-calling and epithets, and woefully deficient in substance. She appeared lost on subject after subject, fumbling on one of her signature issues — withdrawing from the euro — that is opposed by a majority of French. Something essential about Ms. Le Pen, and the National Front, had been revealed to France.

Mr. Macron, on the other hand, demonstrated a quality that French voters, unlike many Anglo-Saxon ones, have long found essential in their successful candidates: cool mastery of the critical issues confronting the country. Where Ms. Le Pen repeatedly lost herself in the weeds, Mr. Macron sailed right through them. Whether he will now be able to translate that knowledge into action is another question.

Word. There will be two rounds of parliamentary elections in June and Macron’s new party needs to elect some deputies or else he will be le screwed and Vichy Fascism will make a comeback in 2022. Le Pen did receive 34% of the vote in this rout, which is nearly double her father’s performance against Jacques Chirac in the 2002 run-off. The Le Pens aren’t going anywhere. They’re playing the long game.

The biggest difference between our late election and Sunday in France is that the establishment right did NOT support Le Pen. They supported the Republic and democracy against the Vichy Fascist threat. In contrast,  the American establishment right made a pact with the orange devil. I almost said “sold their souls” but they’re souless stinkers. Has anyone ever seen Mitch McConnell’s reflection in a mirror? I thought not.

I must admit to saying “I told you so” yesterday on social media. Every election is not about America. France is not America, and America is not France. Vive la difference. Vive la France.

That concludes this inexpert post about the French election. Hey, at least I resisted the temptation to call it Pepe Le Pew meets Marine Le Pen.

All this talk of Le Pen and Le Pew has given me le earworm:

Lost Cause Fest: The May Day Melee

Photograph by Seymour D. Hipster.

Lost Cause Fest has been going on for about a week on the Jefferson Davis Parkway neutral ground. It is, of course, the location of the Jefferson Davis monument, which is slated to come down some time in the near future. It can’t come soon enough for us locals.

The Lost Causers come from redneckier parts of the South. Many seem to be Arkansans as well as a few Okies and assorted other peckerwoods. I’m relying on second-hand information since I have no desire to get caught up between the far-right neo-Confederates and the far-left antifa group. Some of the former are toting guns and many of the latter think that provoking them would be jolly good fun. The tactics of the far-right and left seem to be converging of late: here, there, and everywhere. The good news is that no shots have been fired and the cops were on top of things last night. NOPD excels at crowd control. We have Carnival to thank for that.

There were rumors that the Davis monument was coming down on May Day. I guess the Lost Causers think our gentrifying yuppie Mayor is a commie or something. Many of them, however, look like they might be wingnut wiccans celebrating Beltane. Actually, they look more like people who used to follow Lynyrd Skynyrd around the hookworm belt. I can imagine them trying to light each other ablaze during the Bic lighter portion of Free Bird. Nowadays they’re more into hippie burning…

While I have not ventured to Mid City, many of my friends have done so and posted their archaeological findings on social media. I didn’t see any maypoles but there *were* some red flags as well as Nine Inch Nails karaoke. I am not making this up.

Let’s start with a picture of a sign that makes me laugh. We all need some comic relief on the day after the May Day Melee:

Photograph by Skooks.

We love our signs in New Orleans. We usually make them to attract Carnival throws, not repel Lost Cause Festers.

Next up is local photog Cheryl Gerber who conversed with the Lost Causers including a black dude from Oklahoma. Hand to God, I am not making this up. I tried to embed the photo album link without any success, so click here. It’s worth it. Believe me.

I have a confession to make. I didn’t coin the term Lost Cause Fest. That dubious honor goes to First Draft pun consultant and Zombie-Picayune dude, Diamond James Karst.

On the scene for the maypoleless May Day Melee was Gambit Editor and Adrastos crony Kevin Allman who wrote a piece about it after posting some tremendous tweets.

No word on whether Kevin tried to pass himself off as kin to Duane and Gregg in order to get the deplorables talking. Of course, that’s all they seem to do. They could even be described as redneck yippies. There were more media and anti-Confederates there than so-called “monument protectors.”

I’m glad that NOPD has secured the area but it’s time for that statue to come down before things escalate again. We don’t want anyone to get hurt in this war over symbols. Jefferson Davis’ main link to New Orleans is that he died here in 1889. I don’t want anyone on either side to meet the same fate near the doomed statue.

There’s an oddball sub-plot to the monuments mishigas. There’s a bar near the Jefferson Davis statue: The Holy Ground Irish Pub. They’ve had a series of run-ins with Lost Cause Festers. They have a strict “our bathrooms are only for customers” policy. It’s especially relevant during Mardi Gras and not unreasonable the rest of the year. Instead of buying a beverage, the Lost Causers have taken umbrage at this policy and bombarded the bar with nasty social media reviews. That shows how tacky the neo-Confederates really are. Fuck them sideways. No Guinness or Jameson’s for you lot.

In solidarity with the Holy Ground Irish Pub, here’s a Celtic-rock selection from Wolfstone:

I’ll give the last tweet to the anti-confederates who serenaded the “outside agitators” with an obscene little ditty:

Notice how I said last tweet, not word? I’d like to address the orange elephant in the room: the Trump factor. There’s little doubt that the protests are larger and more voluble because the Insult Comedian is in office. He’s given the red light to the Lost Causers and I expect more of the same in the future.  I halfway expect the president* to sic Andrew Jackson on us.

The only good thing about Lost Cause Fest is that it’s allowed an old liberal like me to use the term “outside agitators.” That’s what the peckerwoods and Klan humpers called civil rights protesters back in the day. Turnabout is fair play, y’all.

Since I’ve gone on about May Day and maypoles, I’ll give the *real* last word to XTC:

 

Malaka Of The Week: Corey Stewart

Corey Stewart is a far-right Trump humping Republican politician running for Governor of Virginia. One of his main campaign issues is “preserving” Confederate monuments in the commonwealth. Virginia is a place where there’s not currently much controversy over Confederate iconography. That is why Corey Stewart has injected himself into the New Orleans monuments removal controversy. And that is why he is malaka of the week.

The other day I urged pro-removal forces in New Orleans to use the term white supremacy instead of Confederate. It’s not only more accurate, it puts the onus on monuments supporters. Who wants to stand up for white supremacy as opposed to historic preservation? The Confederate label allows them babble about “erasing history.”

Much of Malaka Stewart’s babbling has been on his Tweeter Tube feed. Here’s a sampler:

I’m not from the South BUT I’ve lived in the Gret Stet of Louisiana for 60% of my life. It’s not just “Yankees” who want the white supremacy monuments removed. It’s funny how racist malakas like Stewart think only white folks are genuine Southerners. They are not.  Hell, Stewart himself is a transplant from Minnesota. I think he’s overcompensating for his own Yankeetude.

I don’t know any black folks who favor keeping these monuments to white supremacy. Imagine that. I wonder if Malaka Stewart considers them 3/5 of a Southerner. That’s how the constitution calculated it. I have a hunch that Stewart has about as much use for black folks as he does for “mainstream cuckservatives.”

Malaka Stewart claims to believe that “blue lives matter.” I suspect he’s unaware that the so-called Liberty monument celebrated an uprising of white vigilantes against the racially mixed police force of New Orleans in 1874. Did those blue lives matter less because they were opposed to white supremacy? Repeat after me: white supremacy, not Confederate.

I find it beyond ironic that Southern conservatives who claim to believe in state’s rights are injecting themselves into a local controversy. Stay the hell out of our business. The removal was decided democratically by a vote by the New Orleans City Council. They held public hearings as did the HDLC (Historic District Landmarks Commission) which also voted for the removal of the four white supremacy monuments. Repeat after me: stop being an “outside agitator” and stay the hell out of our business.

The lingering controversy over the Lost Cause’s latest loss is partially due to how badly history is taught in the US&A. Supporters of the monuments insist the Civil War was not fought over slavery. They are not only wrong, they are willfully delusional. It’s a pity that aggressively stupid politicians are capitalizing on historical illiteracy to score points. Of course, stupid is in nowadays. And that is why Corey Stewart is malaka of the week.

Repeat after me: white supremacy, not Confederate. I’ll give Florida Man Tom Petty the last word:

Hmm, maybe Corey Stewart got into the magic mushrooms. Of course, his hallucinations would involve Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Holy bad trip, Batman.

NOLA White Supremacy Monuments: One Down, Three To Go

The process of removing four Jim Crow era monuments from their current locations has begun. I wish that the city had NOT done so under cover of darkness but the Mayor has said that there were death threats against the work crew. Unfortunately, I believe him. BUT since other security measures were taken, I still think it should have been done during the day. I, for one, am proud of this action, which is why I don’t think we should be sneaking around. It gives the appearance of wrongdoing when they’re doing the right thing. Celebrating hatred and racism is unacceptable.

I also wish Mayor Landrieu would stop calling them Confederate monuments. The one that was removed this morning, the so-called Liberty monument, honors the triumph of white supremacy during Reconstruction. The remaining three statues honor Confederate dignitaries-only one local-and were erected in celebration of white supremacy, which is why I use that term.

It would have been better if there were a post-removal plan in place. I think some form of public display in a park or museum that places them in context is the way to answer charges that we’re trying to erase history.  The removal was relatively well thought out but the aftermath remains murky, which gives ammunition to the erstwhile Gret Stet Fuhrer:

The Alamo, of course, is a monument to Texas independence, not white supremacy. Context and intent are everything is this debate. How does Dukkke think we can “erase” the Founding Fathers? I think their monuments are safe. I would, however, like to shove the Washingtion Memorial up Duke’s ass.

Anyway, I came here to praise the Mayor, as well as to bury the white supremacy monuments, so I’ll stop quibbling about details. I’ll save the nitpicking for another day.

Here’s how one local teevee news organization covered the removal:

 

Sean Spicer’s Odyssey From Gum Spice To Malaprop Spice

I planned to call this post Gum Spice Is Gassed. No, not the kind of gas they used at the Holocaust Centers. I was referring to the fact that dignity wraith Sean Spicer appears to be used up and spit out like the Orbit gum he crams in his gob. He’s gassed. He’s done.

Gum Spice’s meltdown Tuesday was the worst since Presidents have had press secretaries dating back to 1929. He made Ron Ziegler look like JFK’s crack spokesdude, Pierre Salinger. You’ve all heard Spicer’s inanely incoherent contortions on Assad, Hitler, and chemical weapons. Subsequent explanations have only made matters worse.

The only way Spicer survives in his job is if Trump gets stubborn over the calls for his spokesman’s pinhead. The Insult Comedian likes to do his own firing, thank you yery much, or as he would say very, very, very, very, very, very much. I do wish he would vary his verys…

If you get a chance to see Rachel Maddow’s Tuesday segment on the Spicer incident, it’s must see teevee. It turns out that Gum Spice has a hard time speaking the language, which is odd given his chosen profession: political flack. He fucks up names: he keeps calling the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Trumbull. His name is Turnbull. T-U-R-N-B-U-L-L. I wonder if there are any flash cards left over at the White House from the Reagan years: they helped Ronnie, why not Seannie? Spicer also has an eerie inability to pronounce the name of the dictator he’s denouncing: Bashar al-Assad.

Since Spicer cannot pronounce, he should renounce his title as Press Secretary. End of Jesse Jackson/Johnnie Cochran moment. Public speaking *is* hard but that’s what he does for a living. Spicer needs a new First Draft nickname as well. I’ve been calling him Gum Spice in honor of his gum habit and my post about it, Sean Spicer Can Lie and Chew Gum at the Same Time. It turns out that I got the lying part right, but when it comes to speaking he’s hopeless. That’s why I am giving him an alternate First Draft nickname, Malaprop Spice. It may be the reason he gets shitcanned: the Insult Comedian is in charge of malaprops in this administration*, thank you very, very, very much.

Every time I think Team Trump cannot be more incompetent, they top themselves. That’s what happens when an entire administration* wings it. I may not be a prophet (with or without honor) but I wrote a piece about Trump in December, 2015 entitled Winging It With The Insult Comedian:

Trump’s tendency to spout off and utter unfiltered bullshit is the most alarming thing about his candidacy, not his ideology. The Insult Comedian has no ideology: the only thing he believes in is himself and the roar of the crowd. The last thing a country with the world’s largest military needs is a guy who wings it as the Oval One. Impulse control is a very important quality for any President to have. The Insult Comedian has none, he’s like the kid who eats all his Halloween candy in one sitting and wonders why he’s puking his guts out.

I stand by my prediction in that post that this would blow up in Trump’s face. I certainly was off in my timing but it’s happening as I write. Between lies and incompetence, the Trump administration* has no credibility left. The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman argues that Trump has had five Syria policies and counting in the last two weeks. He’s absolutely right. It’s what happens when you’re winging it with the Insult Comedian.

Back to Malaprop Spice, the artist formerly known as Gum Spice. I almost feel sorry for him right now. Almost. He’s a beaten man. He’s licked…all over.

Rumor has it that the Trumpers want to hire Reagan’s White House spokesman, Larry Speakes, to replace the man who has gummed up the works. Speakes had the best name ever for someone in his position. He was never formally White House press secretary because Jim Brady continued to hold that title after being shot. Besides, it was more fun to call him White House spokesman, Larry Speakes.

The problem is that spokesman Speakes died in 2014. Perhaps Bannon, Jared, Ivanka, Kellyanne, and Reince can have a seance and bring back spokesman Speakes. I have spoken.

Repeat after me: if you cannot pronounce, you must renounce.

The Gorsuch Filibuster

I’m usually a big picture guy. I prefer not to get caught up in the emotions of the moment. It’s one of the things I respected and admired most about former President Obama. He wasn’t always right in his calculations but they were rational and reasonable. It’s why so many of us called him No Drama Obama. It was just as reassuring to have him in the White House as it is unnerving to have a 70-year-old toddler in his place.

That brings me to the Gorsuch nomination and how it should be dealt with. I have been known to be swayed in the past by arguments such as the ones posited yesterday in a NYT article. Those days, however, are long gone. I think Senate Democrats should filibuster the hell out of  Gorsuch regardless of whether it provokes the so-called nuclear option. Democrats tried being reasonable with the Garland nomination and that distinguished jurist was treated like a bum by Senate GOPers.  This is a stolen Supreme Court seat and those efforts should not be rewarded. Does anyone think they’ll respect us for being reasonable? They never have before.

Politically speaking, the Democratic base is the most engaged it has been since 2006 and 2008. In fact, it may be the most engaged it has been in my lifetime. Failure to filibuster would be deflating and perhaps even disheartening for the grass-roots activists who are energized by the egregious malakatude of the current administration*. Besides, their continued engagement is imperative if Republicans make another run at passing an even worse version of Trumpcare.

Furthermore, Gorsuch is a smug prick who declined to meet with four Democratic Senators who just happen to be women of color. One of whom, California’s Kamala Harris is a former San Francisco District Attorney and California Attorney General. That makes her a legal as well as a political superstar. She. of all people, should have been given the courtesy of a meeting with Gorsuch. I guess the Trumpers consider her, as an African-American woman, to be a two-time loser unworthy of professional courtesy. So much for Gorsuch’s gee whiz facade. He’s just another Republican asshole beneath all the gollies and goshes.

I am proud of Senator Schumer and the 40 Democratic Senators who plan to filibuster this goshdarn lousy nomination. It’s payback for Judge Garland and all the lies told by Republican Senators about what happened in 2016. It’s time to take a stand and, in a slogan used by former New Orleans Mayor Dutch Morial, keep the drive alive.

INSTANT UPDATE: Josh Marshall argues that the Supreme Court filibuster was effectively abolished in 2005. It’s another reason to stand firm on the Gorsuch nomination by golly.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Promised Land

Marbotikin Dulda by Frank Stella.

We seem to have hit peak pollen this week in New Orleans. Achoo. As a result, I awaken each day with watery eyes and a runny nose. Achoo. It’s most unpleasant as is my daily sinus headache. The good news is that we’re supposed to have some rain to wash away the sticky yellow stuff. The bad news is that it won’t happen until later today when we have plans to attend a festival not far from Adrastos World HQ. Oh well, that’s what umbrellas are for.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or watching teevee with the Insult Comedian, you know that Chuck Berry died at the age of 90.  This week’s theme song, Promised Land, is my favorite Chuck Berry tune. I was introduced to it at the first Grateful Dead show I ever attended. It was a helluva opening number.

I have three versions for your entertainment: Berry’s original, the Band’s rollicking piano driven take from Moondog Matinee, and the Dead live in the Nutmeg State. It’s time to jet to the promised land, y’all.

I remain mystified as to why Chuck wanted to get out of Louisiana and go to Houston town. There’s no accounting for taste. Let’s ponder that as I insert the break, but not where the moon don’t shine.

Continue reading

Somebody Else’s Babies

Half a dozen years ago, Mr. A and I were in the adoption agency office looking at brochures.

Not for babies. You don’t have to sell people who are thinking about adoption on babies. Small, squirmy, sticky-out-tongue babies who rustle and snuzzle at your shoulder and snorfle into your ear? You don’t need to pitch those to people. No, we were looking at brochures for parents.

One couple had written a letter to their prospective birth mother explaining all the advantages their child would have: A love for music, for art, a house full of books and laughter. Another made full-color picture pages, designed like a children’s book, showing the two women swinging on swings at the park, playing with a golden retriever in a large yard, pulling nephews in a sled through the snow. Look, see how your baby will live. All these materials were designed to make a biological parent comfortable with an adoptive one, comfortable enough to hand an infant over.

Because the agency often facilitated interracial adoption, the counselor suggested that when Mr. A and I made our brochure, we make it clear we lived and worked in diverse environments. At the time I had an African-American boss and another from Jamaica, colleagues and contacts from everywhere. Our beloved neighbors, a second family to us both, interracial marriages and relationships in both our families, these could help convince a black woman two white people from Wisconsin should raise her child.

(Two white people from Wisconsin is what I think of whenever somebody in front of me at Starbucks orders a “double flat white.”)

The intent was all outward, from the agency’s perspective. You just want a baby. The baby’s birth mother and father want to choose you. I was too selfishly wrapped up in my desire for a baby to consider what kind of baby we should want. Kind of baby? The BABY kind of baby, the one who sucks on his fingers or kicks her tiny feet. We didn’t go through with adoption, not because we didn’t want to but because our biological long shot won.

Still, I thought of that agency, of those brochures, when Steve King flapped his stupid face again: Somebody else’s babies. Not only has he not apologized, not only has he made it worse, but over the weekend his Republican colleagues — who let’s be fair were fine with every other racist thing he says — made their unofficial shrugs official: 

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said this week that she didn’t condone Rep. Steve King‘s (R-Iowa) controversial comments on immigration, but she wouldn’t call for his resignation, Politico reported.

At a town hall meeting in their home state on Friday, Ernst said she would not ask for King to step down, despite calls by many in the audience for her to do so, according to the report.

“I do not ask for [his resignation], I will not ask for that, I do not condone his language. But his voters will make that determination,” she said, according to Politico. “We don’t condone that language, we try to speak respectfully. We all need to act with a level of respect.”

Yeah! We need to act with a level of respect when we are suppressing the voting rights of minority communities and taking away social programs that might help minority kids and undercutting public education in majority-minority cities! We need to SAY nice things while we’re doing all that. We can’t give the GAME AWAY. We can’t just say it outright: Somebody else’s babies.

Good Christ. Like babies have owners, instead of parents. Like they know where they belong and should stay there. Like everyone isn’t somebody else’s baby.

A.

Quotes Of The Day: Muslim Ban Edition

Things are not going well for the revised Trump Muslim travel ban. Two federal judges have ruled against it thus far. The opinion by Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii was particularly scathing:

The illogic of the Government’s contentions is palpable. The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed. … It is undisputed, using the primary source upon which the Government itself relies, that these six countries have overwhelmingly Muslim populations that range from 90.7% to 99.8%. It would therefore be no paradigmatic leap to conclude that targeting these countries likewise targets Islam. Certainly, it would be inappropriate to conclude, as the Government does, that it does not.

It’s no surprise that Trumper bragging is one reason that the ban has lost in court. Ignoring Kellyanne Conway’s admonitions,  Judge Watson took the president’s* words literally in his ruling. Here are a few more choice excerpts:

The Government appropriately cautions that, in determining purpose, courts should not look into the ‘veiled psyche’ and ‘secret motives’ of government decision-makers and may not undertake a ‘judicial psychoanalysis of a drafter’s heart of hearts’.

The Government need not fear. The remarkable facts at issue here require no such impermissible inquiry.

For instance, there is nothing ‘veiled’ about this press release: ‘Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.’

Nor is there anything ‘secret’ about the Executive’s motive specific to the issuance of the Executive Order:

Rudolph Giuliani explained on television how the Executive Order came to be. He said: “When [Mr. Trump] first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’”

<SNIP>

In an interview on January 25, 2017, Mr. Trump discussed his plans to implement ‘extreme vetting’ of people seeking entry into the United States. He remarked: ‘[N]o, it’s not the Muslim ban. But it’s countries that have tremendous terror. . . . [I]t’s countries that people are going to come in and cause us tremendous problems.’ …

When signing the first Executive Order [No. 13,769], President Trump read the title, looked up, and said: ‘We all know what that means.’ President Trump said he was ‘establishing a new vetting measure to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America’, and that: ‘We don’t want them here.’

Words matter to thinking people like Judge Watson. In Philip Roth’s memorable phrase, the Insult Comedian may speak “jerkish” but his gibberish translated into English has gotten him into trouble. The Muslim ban word salad was overdressed and too vinegary even if the Brown House describes it as “watered down.”

I begin to wonder if they even care if the ban goes into effect: they’ve made their propaganda points and placated their feral, unneutered base. If they want it to happen, the Trump-Bannon regime would be well-advised to heed this message from our country’s past:

This is a preliminary victory but I, for one, am thrilled that Trumpian braggadocio sank this particular ship. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Trumper incompetence may yet save the Republic. Keep up the bad work, y’all.

UPDATE: Trump continues to shoot off his mouth:

“Remember this, I wasn’t thrilled that the lawyers all said, ‘Oh, let’s tailor it.’ This is a watered-down version of the first one,” he told the crowd. “This is a watered down version, and let me tell you something. I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first place.”

Trump vowed to defend his order.

“This ruling makes us look weak. Which by the way, we no longer are, believe me. Just look at our borders. We are going to fight this terrible rule,” he said at the rally.

Thanks, Donald.

Malaka Of The Week: Keith Smith

Flags

Photograph by Jim Otey.

You’re probably asking yourself, who the hell is Keith Smith? I had never heard of him until ninety minutes ago when I first read about his flag flying exploits in Indianapolis.  One in particular, and his explanation of why he flies it, has caused a furor, pun intended. It’s always intended. And that is why Keith Smith is malaka of the week.

Smith is just an ordinary Joe with an ordinary name. He’s also the sort of collector you’re unlikely to see featured on the Antiques Roadshow:

Smith said the Nazi flag is about history, not race. He bought the flag from an antique dealer, and he’s been collecting neo-Nazi memorabilia since he was 14. He has badges, military pins and other commodities.

“It’s a part of history,” he said. “Someone sacrificed their life fighting and brought the flag back as a trophy.”

I suspect the folks at the Indy Star mean that he collects Nazi memorabilia. I doubt that there’s a market in George Lincoln Rockwell gee-gaws and tchotchkes. The bigger problem with Malaka Smith’s collection is how he displays one of his prized items: the flag you might have noticed at the top of the post.

For Keith Smith, flying the Nazi flag makes a point about how he’s being slowly stripped of his freedom.

The 58-year-old Indianapolis man has flown the flag three times in front of his house before, joining the Confederate flag and the Gadsden flag that reads “Don’t tread on me.”

“Everything is being stripped from us, everything is being turned into an issue,” Smith said. “I mostly flew it because I’m tired of seeing stuff across the U.S. Some want to cry about their hurt feelings, but this is a part of history being taken down.”

Does anyone understand Smith’s reasoning? I certainly don’t. It strikes me as the essence of malakatude. Flying the flag of one of America’s greatest enemies, one of the worst dictatorships in history, is an affirmation of freedom? That’s just plain nuts even in the era of alternative facts and neo-newspeak.  That’s also how the man who posted a picture of Smith’s flag on Facebook sees it:

Mr. Otey further elaborated on his sentiments to the Indy Star but I think fucking Nazi flag sums it up succinctly:

Jim Otey, a 51-year-old who lives in Smith’s neighborhood, said the flag represents an overall symbol of hate for him. He drives past Smith’s house daily and always saw the Confederate and Gadsden flag, and just shook his head. But the Nazi flag went too far.

“It’s the ultimate symbol of all the evil and bad things that are in this country,” Otey said. “It’s frightening to see that in your neighborhood.”

He made the original post on Facebook about the flag, and said he was astounded to see how far it spread.

“It makes me feel good that everyone is getting on board here,” Otey said. “That’s not going to fly here.”

The people who carried that flag plunged the world into the bloodiest war ever waged. It’s a symbol of genocide and war criminality, not a quaint relic. I have no issue with Smith owning the flag but displaying it flies in the face of simple human decency; something that seems to be in short supply among Trumpers in the heartland. Our country fought the Nazis; many of us lost relatives in Hitler’s war of aggression. It’s a symbol of repression, not freedom. And this bozo’s Confederate battle flag is a symbol of slavery, not freedom. It’s all so simple. Perhaps too simple for the likes of Keith Smith.

Trump’s electoral college victory gave the green light to bigots and racists; both famous and obscure. They have friends in high places such as Steves King and Bannon. The latter has been busy turning the White House into the Brown House while the former proudly parades his  fascist ethno-nationalist views without rebuke from fellow Republicans. Those who think of themselves as “decent” Republicans own the Steves and their ilk. I’m done cutting them any slack whatsoever.

As to Keith Smith. If he were a WWE wrestler, we might call him the Hoosier Hater. I have my own word for it: malakatude.  And that is why Keith Smith is malaka of the week.

King Of The Bigots

Our old “friend” Congressman Steve King of Iowa used to claim that he wasn’t a racist. Now that white ethno nationalism is fashionable among the deplorables, those days are gone, gone, gone:

Guess who applauded King:

The Wilders mentioned by King is far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders whose ironically named Party for Freedom is running first in the polls in that nation’s upcoming election. A headline in the “failing” NYT captures the horror of what’s happening in the Netherlands: How The Dutch Stopped Being Decent and Dull. I’d like to throw another D word in the mix: depressing.

The good news is that, thanks to Holland’s multi-party system, Wilders is unlikely to be the next Prime Minister BUT his party has gone from being cranks to contenders. That’s bad news for those of us who have admired the Dutch for their political common sense and cultural tolerance. The French presidential election is next up and Marine LePen may lead in the first round. The conventional wisdom is that her opponents will unite against her as they did against her father in 2002 but the CW has taken a beating in the last few years. Stay tuned: if France leaves the EU, it’s as dead as the Weimar Republic.

Back to Steve King. The Iowa cornholer is standing by his statements. It’s now safe in certain circles for an elected official to sound like David Duke, Richard Spencer, and Geert Wilders. King was on CNN this morning and went into a rhapsody about his horrendous views:

“I’ve been to Europe and I’ve spoken on this issue and I’ve said the same thing as far as ten years ago to the German people and to any population of people that is a declining population that isn’t willing to have enough babies to reproduce themselves. And I’ve said to them, you can’t rebuild your civilization with somebody else’s babies,” King said on CNN. “You’ve got to keep your birth rate up and that you need to teach your children your values.”

There you have it, we’re not “making” enough babies. It’s what happens when women get uppity and think they can do other things and not just be baby factories as in The Handmaid’s Tale. There’s a new teevee version of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic and it couldn’t be timelier. Make sure you read Ms. Atwood’s essay about The Handmaid’s Tale continuing relevance in the “failing” NYT.

In addition to supporting the King of Bigots, the erstwhile Gret Stet Fuhrer is bragging about his own fertility. Duke only has two kids whereas his role model Joseph Goebbels had six. Of course, he murdered his children in 1945. Some hero. Some role model.

Remember when mainstream conservatives ran away from David Dukkke? Now they sound just like him: Steve King is merely a canary in the coal mine. That’s life in the 21st Century, which is starting to feel like the 1930’s with memes. The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland recently had a great deal to say about that, so I’ll give him the last word:

If there’s a common thread linking 21st-century European nationalists to each other and to Trump, it is a similar, shared contempt for the structures that have bound together, and restrained, the principal world powers since the last war. Naturally, Le Pen and Wilders want to follow the Brexit lead and leave, or else break up, the EU. And, no less naturally, Trump supports them – as well as regarding Nato as “obsolete” and the UN as an encumbrance to US power (even if his subordinates rush to foreign capitals to say the opposite).

For historians of the period, the 1930s are always worthy of study because the decade proves that systems – including democratic republics – which had seemed solid and robust can collapse. That fate is possible, even in advanced, sophisticated societies. The warning never gets old.

But when we contemplate our forebears from eight decades ago, we should recall one crucial advantage we have over them. We have what they lacked. We have the memory of the 1930s. We can learn the period’s lessons and avoid its mistakes. Of course, cheap comparisons coarsen our collective conversation. But having a keen ear tuned to the echoes of a past that brought such horror? That is not just our right. It is surely our duty.

The Fog Of History: Explaining Trump

Ron Rosenbaum wrote one of the best books about the Hitler phenomenon and its persistence through the years: Explaining Hitler. In that brilliant work, Rosenbaum talked to some of the explainers-from the crazy to the reputable-to try to understand how Nazism could have taken hold in a country known for its literature, music, art, and cinema. Rosenbaum also endeavored to understand *why* Hitler’s demonic spell continued after his catastrophic failure and revelation as the war criminal’s war criminal. If you’re interested in the subject, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. What’s not to love about a book that has a chapter titled The Hitler Family Film Noir?

Rosenbaum was approached by some publications to explore comparisons between Hitler and the man some call Hair Fuhrer and I call the Insult Comedian: Donald J. Trump. He was initially reluctant to do so for reasons he explains in a brand spanking new piece in the Los Angeles Review Of Books:

Until the morning after the election I had declined them. While Trump’s crusade had at times been malign, as had his vociferous supporters, he and they did not seem bent on genocide. He did not seem bent on anything but hideous, hurtful simplemindedness — a childishly vindictive buffoon trailing racist followers whose existence he had mainstreamed. When I say followers I’m thinking about the perpetrators of violence against women outlined by New York Magazine who punched women in the face and shouted racist slurs at them. Those supporters. These are the people Trump has dragged into the mainstream, and as my friend Michael Hirschorn pointed out, their hatefulness will no longer find the Obama Justice Department standing in their way.

Bad enough, but genocide is almost by definition beyond comparison with “normal” politics and everyday thuggish behavior, and to compare Trump’s feckless racism and compulsive lying was inevitably to trivialize Hitler’s crime and the victims of genocide.

As a believer in Godwin’s Law until the 2016 election, I understand where Rosenbaum is coming from. It’s why I still prefer using the term Fascist to describe the Trump-Bannon “movement” and their loathsome followers.

Now that they’re in power, Rosenbaum detects a methodological similarity between the Trumpers and German Nazis. It’s rooted in both the big lie technique and the war on the press. In Hitler’s case, his fiercest foes back home in Bavaria were the reporters of the Munich Post who were referred to as “the poison kitchen” by the Nazis.

I really should let the master explainer explain himself:

But after the election, things changed. Now Trump and his minions are in the driver’s seat, attempting to pose as respectable participants in American politics, when their views come out of a playbook written in German. Now is the time for a much closer inspection of the tactics and strategy that brought off this spectacular distortion of American values.

What I want to suggest is an actual comparison with Hitler that deserves thought. It’s what you might call the secret technique, a kind of rhetorical control that both Hitler and Trump used on their opponents, especially the media. And they’re not joking. If you’d received the threatening words and pictures I did during the campaign (one Tweet simply read “I gas Jews”), as did so many Jewish reporters and people of color, the sick bloodthirsty lust to terrify is unmistakably sincere. The playbook is Mein Kampf.

Trump, of course, is not only incapable of writing a book on his own, he’s a notorious non-reader. Instead, he’s the teevee-watcher-in-chief. But Hitler was *not* an intellectual. He was a demagogue with an acute sense of his audience and what we would call his base. Trump may not be a true believer in the white nationalist ideology that Bannon and Miller have cobbled together BUT he *is* its best salesman.

Back to Hitler and the poison kitchen. The Munich Post did its best to expose the petty criminality and nationalistic bigotry that drove Hitler and the Nazis but in the end, we know what happened. They lost the kampf: Hitler came to power and plunged the world into an orgy of chaos, hatred, and violence. Steve Bannon is on the record as wanting chaos and destruction in order to bring on his own B3 new order and I’m not talking about the band of that name. He’s a right-wing Leninist. I’m a John Leninist myself.

Rosenbaum is even more worried about the normalization of Trump now that he’s the Current Occupant:

Cut to the current election. We had heard allegations that Trump kept Hitler’s speeches by his bedside, but somehow we normalized that. We didn’t take him seriously because of all the outrageous, clownish acts and gaffes we thought would cause him to drop out of the race. Except these gaffes were designed to distract. This was his secret strategy, the essence of his success — you can’t take a stand against Trump because you don’t know where Trump is standing. You can’t find him guilty of evil, you can’t find him at all. And the tactics worked. Trump was not taken seriously, which allowed him to slip by the normal standards for an American candidate. The mountebank won. Again.

Suddenly, after the inconceivable (and, we are now beginning to realize, suspicious) Trump victory, the nation was forced to contend with what it would mean, whether the “alt-right” was a true threat or a joke to be tolerated. Did it matter that Trump had opened up a sewer pipe of racial hatred? Once again, normalization was the buzzword.

And I remembered the Munich Post, defending Weimar Germany. I reflected on how fragile democratic institutions could be in the face of organized hatred. Hitler had been tricky about his plans until he got the position and the power to enact them. Trump had been tricky, neither accepting nor rejecting the endorsement of KKK leader David Duke. David Duke! The KKK! In this century! He claimed he didn’t know who he was. He couldn’t be disqualified because of someone he didn’t know. That’s where we all went wrong, thinking he was stupid and outrageous, not canny and savvy and able to play the media like Paganini. The election demonstrated the weakness of a weak democracy, where basic liberties could be abolished by demagoguery and voter suppression.

Rosenbaum is concerned that normalization is taking place in too many sectors of the public and press. The MSM wavers between exposing Trumpian excesses and normalization. I am cautiously optimistic that vast swaths of the American people do not accept Trump’s legitimacy and will never normalize his “movement.” Look at me: I am fundamentally a center-left Democrat who belongs to the “get shit done” wing of the party. That’s been suspended along with my adherence to Godwin’s Law. I am committed to resisting Trumpism and everything about it. This is not the time to make a deal with the devil. Trump regards offers of compromise as signs of weakness. I will continue to show him the same level of respect that Republicans gave to Barack Obama: zero, zilch, bupkis, nada.

People need to be patient. Given the current make-up of  Congress, Trump can only be removed if Republicans turn on him. That will only happen when they think the cost of supporting him outweighs the cost of pissing off rank and file Trumpers. That’s why public displays of disapproval are so vital. And the much ballyhooed 25th Amendment solution requires the support of his cabinet. It’s one reason why, with the exception of Generals Mattis and Kelly, the cabinet is loaded with wealthy political non-entities, sycophants, and right-wing ideologues. They *might* rebel if Trump continues his manic ways but it will take time. You know things are bad if I think Mike Pence is less horrific than Donald Trump. Why? He’s less likely to plunge us into a war caused by the last thing he saw on teevee. Trump puts the boob into boob tube as well as the idiot into idiot box.

Pressure and patience must be the watchwords of the resistance. We didn’t get into this mess overnight and we won’t get out of it quickly either. Satire is one of our best weapons. It hits Trump where he lives: he wants to be loved and admired. It’s our job to see that he’s neither. We don’t want him to think he’s Chaplin’s Great Dictator, Adenoid Hynkel. If Trump tries to dance with a global balloon, we need to pop it.

Vive les Maquis.

Confessions Of A Super Bowl Troll

I’m a bad American sports fan. I don’t *have* to watch the entire Super Bowl unless there’s a team I like playing. Last night, we watched an old John Ford movie, then tuned in for Lady Gaga’s half time show and the rest of the game. A lot of people missed her subtle political subtext but my friend Roberta did not:

Sometimes the subtle can be radical. I found her opening with snippets of “God Bless America,” “This Land is Your Land” and the pledge to be audacious and absolutely brilliant. She let the righties know that they have no monopoly on love for the USA, and she reminded lefties that there are bigger reasons to fight for what’s right than whatever our own, personal identity may be. And then came the Big, Gay Anthem. It was a million times more brilliant than an overt FU to Trump. Had she done something blatant, it would have fulfilled the negative expectations of the haters and allowed them to dismiss her as just another rude, obnoxious liberal. By making the song selections she did, she made it impossible for them to do that. It’s really quite genius.

Thanks for boiling that down so I don’t have to, R. It’s good to have clever friends who understood that Gaga was working with a scalpel and not a meat dress cleaver last night. And, yes. I like Lady Gaga. Sue me.

Everything is political in the winter of our discontent including this Super Bowl. (I refuse to use the Roman numeral: it’s pompous beyond belief.) Much of the country was rooting for the underdog Atlanta Falcons and against the plutocratic Patriots with their overt ties to Trump via owner Robert Kraft, Coach Grumpy, and Brady the ball inflator. I was too despite the fact that many in New Orleans consider rooting against the Falcons to be a Nolier than thou litmus test. The Falcons are, of course, the Saints arch-rivals but that’s mere sports hate. Real world concerns trumped sports hate for me yesterday.

One reason I pulled for the losing team is some of the people who were rooting for the winning team. The president* was one but so were some more blatant bigots. Here’s a sampler from my old “friend” the erstwhile Gret Stet Fuhrer and that punchable Nazi, Richard Spencer:

Rumor has it that Trump wants to gay marry Tom Brady but is afraid of Mike Liar Liar Pence On Fire’s reaction. I suspect the white-haired prevaricator from Hoosierland could find a way to rationalize it. It’s his specialty as Trump’s Veep.

Let’s do some virtual Nazi punching:

Can’t have a majority black city’s team win the big game. Of course, it’s already happened with the Saints. (I’m too lazy to research other possibilities. Again, sue me.) Also, one of the white receivers is Jewish. Chew on that, you fourth-rate Streicher.

Spencer also called Brady an Aryan avatar. I am not making this up. Does Spencer’s fulsome praise make Brady a white nationalist or neo-Nazi? Of course not, but his silence about his less savory fans makes him look like a worm, weasel, or toady. The Patriots represent one of the bluest regions in the country so I hope that someone in the Commonwealth calls him on this shit. It would give Brady the chance to spout *new* clichés. The old ones are getting a bit shopworn.

Another thing that makes me a bad American is that I didn’t pay much attention to the ads. I’ll let others talk about them elsewhere. I was too busy trolling lefty Saints fans who allowed their sports hate to overrule everything else. I don’t get extreme sports hate. I dislike some sports teams but I *hate* racism and bigotry and those who go along with it infinitely more. There’s a perfect example here at First Draft of putting real world concerns above sports hate. Athenae and Mr. A are ardent Packers fans who hail from Wisconsin yet they live in Chicago, which is home to the Packers arch-rival, Da Bears. I guess they should move in order to satisfy the purity trolls. It’s just sports, it’s supposed to be fun and unimportant. Football isn’t life, it’s just a game.

I, for one, am glad that this particular Super Bowl is over. Its peculiar mix of sports hate stupidity and politics will not be missed. One good thing that happened was that Roger Goodell got booed last night in Houston. Sometimes you get the sweet with the bitter.

I think Mick and Keith got it right by analogy with this song so I’ll give them the last word: